Las Abejas (The Bees) by Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944) is another well known and widely performed work in the repertory of the classical guitar. Once again my intention is to gain insight into this work through analysis. In many ways this composition is similar to the Bach minuets for solo ‘cello discussed earlier in that we have a single line, for the most part, that has strong harmonic and contrapuntal implications. I have used the reduction method to show what I believe are the important structural tones as well as the voice-leading within the multi-voice texture implied by this single line.

Most everything should be clear from the analysis itself but there are a few things that need clarification. 

A short introduction precedes section one (measures 3-18). This section is defined harmonically by its move from the tonic (D minor) to the relative major (F) at the cadence in measure eighteen. This is very typical of many pieces in minor keys, as we have seen in the second minuet from BWV 1007 by Bach as well as many others. 

Section two (mm. 19-36) is where the most adventurous harmonic content occurs characterized by two sections of chromatic harmony which is worth discussing in a bit more detail. Beginning in measure twenty-two is a long chromatic descent in the bass from the D, which actually is first heard in the bass at the opening of section two as a pedal point, to the low G in measure twenty-six. This chromatic bass line is supported with parallel chromatic tenths as is shown in the four part reduction beginning in measure twenty-three through measure twenty-six. I have also shown the voice-leading in the remaining two voices. This generates the harmonies shown with the most interesting feature being the passing diminished seventh chords that chromatically connect the diatonic harmonies with one interesting exception; the G major (IV) chord in measure twenty-four. One way of looking at this is in terms of borrowing a chord from the parallel major key of D major. The B natural in the bass is of course part of the chromatic bass line which is the most important feature to note. Also note the common-tone diminished seventh chord (CT) that occurs in measure twenty-five. The actual common tone (D) is not present as the passing-tone E in the soprano has not yet resolved. It finally does in measure twenty-six. I show the D in parentheses in the reduction. 

The ultimate goal of this descent is the ii chord (Em7b5) in first inversion to prepare the dominant (A7) in D minor. This is where Barrios brings in what I think is the most interesting and clever progression in the piece. Where we expect to hear the tonic (D minor) in measure thirty-three we get a C7 chord in third inversion (Bb bass) which we might think is some sort of diversion into a new key. It turns out it is part of a chromatic ascending bass line beginning with the A in measure thirty-two and ending on the C# in measure thirty-six. Along with this chromatic ascending bass is a descending chromatic soprano line beginning in measure thirty-two with the C# and ending with the A in measure thirty-six. The two inner voices (E and G) remain stationary. Ultimately we get this beautiful prolongation of the dominant where we start with A7 in measure thirty-two and finally return to it in measure thirty-six. The harmonies shown between the two dominants (A7) are only a byproduct of this voice-leading and are nonfunctional.

I also always like to point out the augmented sixth chords as they are a bit difficult to understand. There is only one in this piece and it occurs in measure twenty-two as shown, slightly unusual in that it is in an inversion. Usually the augmented sixth interval, in this case Bb to G#, is in the outer two voices which then resolve in contrary motion to octave A’s. In this case the D is in the bass which begins the chromatic descending bass discussed earlier. 

After the return to the A section a short coda closes the piece.

That’s about it; a great little piece that is as much fun to play as it is to hear. I hope you find this useful. The analysis is below.



April 14, 2012 @09:21 pm
Tony Hyman
Hello John thanks for your trouble.Looks like we are in for yet another interesting harmonic journey in trying to understand the minds of the likes of Bach and Barrios.You have givern us a lot to chew on thats for sure.
April 13, 2012 @10:02 pm
Thomas Mcfarland
Hey John it's Tom from HFCC, just reading your analysis. This is intense stuff, much of it is over my head. But I'm playing the piece and looking over what you have written trying to figure it out. I like the chord names written above the notation, it really helps. Well see you tuesday. Oh and if youknow of any good theory books let me know. I want to get a head start before taking theory one in the fall thanks again John.

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